So, my early Spring travels continue next week with a visit to Slovakia for some hiking (although more about that in a second). What do I know about Slovakia? Well, I know that physically it is a landlocked country with Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, Austria to the south-west and The Czech Republic to the north-west. The capital, Bratislava, is on the border with Austria and the rest of the country lies horizontally to the east. It’s a mountainous place with the Tatra mountains which straddle Poland and Slovakia taking up a significant chuck of the land mass in the centre and east of the country. Politically, I know that for a period of time in the 20th Century, Slovakia formed one part of Czechoslovakia but that following the Velvet Revolution of the late 1980s. Slovakia once more become an independent state. It is now a fully fledged democracy and joined the European Union on 1st May 2004. It adopted the Euro as its currency on the 1st January 2009.
So that’s the geography lesson over and done with. Why am I going to Slovakia? Well, I have a friend, Paul, whose girlfriend is from Slovakia. Visiting the country has been one of those ideas that occasionally gets tossed into conversation but then nothing ever happens. It’s usually that holidays don’t coincide or that someone has booked a visit to the hairdresser that afternoon etc… A few months ago I received a call from Paul suggesting that we go to Slovakia for a walking holiday at Easter. It appeared that we couldn’t find any excuses whatsoever to not do it, so we agreed there and then. I first met Paul at the University in Reading when I was training to be a teacher at the start of the new century. We used to go walking in the countryside of (mainly) south-east England (usually Berkshire – we never seemed to be that adventurous) albeit with the occasional independent escapade to somewhere more exciting (me to Corsica, Mont Blanc & the Europa mountains of northern Spain & him with his father to various far-flung places around the UK & Europe). On one occasion – the last occasion we did anything remotely adventurous in the walking spectrum – we ventured to Norfolk (OK, hardly up there as one of the great hiking destinations of the World) where we stayed with a former colleague of mine, James, who had moved with his family to live near Norwich. I have wonderful memories of walking along the North Norfolk coast and seeing the basking seals in their hundreds. An amazing sight. Other attempts to do any kind of walking as a threesome have ended in failure. Until now. James is the third person to make up our trio for the walking trip in the Tatra mountains of Slovakia. We fly out to Bratislava on Monday at the ungodly hour of 6:25am (remember that we also lose an hour of sleep this weekend) from Stansted. Early trains have been booked… Once we have arrived in Bratislava, a long train raide is needed to reach our final destination, the village of Tatranska Lomnica, just to the north of Poprad in the north-east of the country.
That is more or less all I know about our upcoming trip. Of course all will be revealed on (the currently inappropriately named) CyclingEurope.org over the course of the next nine days. I will try and eek out some cycling stories. Perhaps if the snow is as abundant as we fear, some form of cycling may be an option, if only down to the local shop for a shovel. We will see.